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Atlanta Regional Semifinal: (1) Duke vs. (4) LSU

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We're delighted that the breakdown of the regional semifinals includes Texas, but as regular Burnt Orange Nation readers know, we try to go beyond Texas-only content to offer news and analysis of national stories. For our first regional breakdown, though, we'll hone in on the Atlanta regional, where Texas awaits West Virginia. Before we spotlight the Horns, though, let's look at Atlanta's other regional semifinal.

(1) Duke vs (4) LSU

The Atlanta regional semifinals may very well have featured -two- Texas schools had A&M been able to fight off the Tigers of LSU. Only a last second three pointer, while trailing by two points, lifted LSU over the surging Aggies. Alas, it's probably just as well, as LSU offers a far more interesting matchup with Duke than Texas A&M would have.

Duke Starting Lineup

G Greg Paulus
G JJ Reddick (24.5 points per game in first two rounds)
G Sean Dockery
F Josh McRoberts
F Shelden Williams (23 points, 16 rebounds per game in first two rounds)

LSU Starting Lineup

G Darrel Mitchell (Hit GW 3-pointer versus A&M)
G Darnell Lazare
G Garrett Temple
F Tasmin Mitchell
F Glen "Baby Shaq" Davis (21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds per game in first two rounds)

This is a very unathletic Duke team, even by their standards. This is a very, very athletic LSU team; exactly the kind of team that experts have been saying can give the front-running Blue Devils a tough game. There's some truth to that analysis, but it doesn't mean that LSU will win. And here's why:

The two best players in this game are on Duke's side.
It's nice to have balance, and I'm convinced that a more versatile, balanced, and athletic team is going to keep Duke from cutting down the nets in Indianpolis, but at the end of the day, the team with the most points still wins. And Duke has the two best scorers in this game. Teams have been scheming to shut down Reddick all year, with little success. The bit of hope that LSU fans should have is that the Tigers -do- have the inside presence to neutralize Shelden Williams. This is the kind of team he struggles against, and as much as Duke relies on Reddick, Williams' productivity is every bit as important.

LSU can't shoot the ball
I do expect that LSU's athleticism and size will hinder the Duke offensive attack, but I'm not confident that they have enough scoring power of their own to get by the Blue Devils. While their young players have come along way, and make for an interesting, exciting team, they aren't a great shooting team and are prone to scoring droughts. LSU will need to crack 75 points to win this game; I'm not sure they will.

LSU is young
The Tigers are a very young and inexperienced team. Against a talented team with two senior leaders and a psychotic game-changing coach like Krzyzewski, it's going to be tough to win. The Tigers -must- come out confident and loose against Duke. The Atlanta crowd will be decidedly partisan in Duke's favor, their best players have tournament experience, and Coach K will have a solid game plan for victory. If LSU comes out tentative, or starry-eyed, it's going to be a long evening.

The Pick
Add it all up and I think Duke wins this game 7 or 8 times out of 10. This is the NCAA tournament, and LSU certainly -can- win this game, but it's going to be a tall order. I think the Blue Devils will be motivated by a lot of the "LSU can win this game" snippets you're bound to hear this week. Count how many times you hear this week that Duke will struggle against long, athletic guys. Trust me; Duke will get sick of it, too. The Blue Devils are headed to the regional finals. They defeat LSU, 79-70.

--HornsFan--